4 - Number of UCF In-House Grants awarded to COHPA in 2016
7 - Number of COHPA Research Fellowships awarded in 2016
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Study Explores How Race Impacts Police Use of Force and Suspect Resistance
Thursday, January 19, 2017
Eugene Paoline, Ph.D., and Jacinta Gau, Ph.D.
University researchers have found that hiring more black police
officers alone will not improve the relationship between police and
black communities. This finding comes from a study that aimed to
provide scientific data regarding a public belief that more black
police officers would result in better treatment to, and garner
positive reactions from, black citizens.
The study, Race and the Police Use of Force Encounter in the
United States, was published Dec. 26 in the British
Journal of Criminology. University of Central Florida criminal
justice Professor Eugene Paoline and Associate Professor Jacinta
Gau authored the study along with Arizona State University
Professor William Terrill.
More than 6,000 cases of police use of force were studied during
a two-year period from seven mid-to-large agencies across the
United States that are similar in policy. What they found is white
and black suspects showed resistance toward officers in a
color-blind fashion. Further, black officers' use of force was
unaffected by suspect race, questioning the notion that black
officers would be less coercive toward black suspects. They also
Black citizens were no more likely than white ones to display
higher forms of noncompliance, and the strength of their resistance
did not vary across officer race. Black resisters were equally
combative toward black officers as white ones.
White citizens were no more likely to show resistance toward
black officers than white ones.
White officers used slightly higher levels of force against
black suspects relative to white ones.
"If there was a strong race affect, you'd see it from all
angles," said Paoline. "Bottom line here is I see this as the race
issue is more complicated than it is being portrayed."
Only data from male police and male citizens were used in this
study to remove outside variables like female suspects and other
"For 100-plus years, the race issue has been about black America
and the police. We wanted to remove all outside noise and go back
to the bare bones of black America and the police for this study,"
A nearly $380,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice
in the U.S. Department of Justice funded this research. The grant
was awarded in 2005.
These findings come at time when tensions are high in the nation
in regards to police use of force and race, sparked by police
shootings in recent years.
"Looking at Ferguson and Baltimore cases, for example, those
have become the building blocks of understanding the current state
of police-community relations. Arguments on both sides [of the
police-community relations debate] are fueled by emotion, based
largely on anecdotal evidence," Paoline said. "There's not much in
the way of science and looking at the data. We had a chance to look
at this from an empirical side with no vested interest. We're not
part of any advocacy group, so this is just from a science point of
view. This can lend some insight into race and policing."
Given the findings of this study - that a more diverse workforce
alone won't improve relations - hopes of improvement may lie in
procedural justice, or examining how police are trained to interact
with the public, Gau said.
"How police interact with citizens, regardless of the outcome,
can transcend officer race," Gau said. "They should be treated
fairly and with dignity and respect."
Paoline added: "It's the approach you take with the public that
can help mend this. You can still write tickets and arrest people
for doing things, but the manner in which you do that can have a
Paoline made a comparison to doctors delivering bad news: The
best doctors are ones who explain the options, who allow patients
to ask questions and who don't just deliver news sternly then walk
"It's an incremental approach to building trust and legitimacy,"